Published On: September 22, 2023
Reviewed On: September 28, 2023
Updated On: September 28, 2023
Social anxiety is also known as social phobia. It’s a common anxiety disorder characterized by excessive self-consciousness and an intense fear of being criticized in everyday social situations.
Medications for social anxiety have become increasingly popular to help people cope with this debilitating mental health condition. It’s important to understand the treatment options available — both through medication and evidence-based therapies — so you can make informed decisions about your mental health journey as you learn to manage symptoms.
While there is no cure, the good news is that it is possible to learn how to overcome social anxiety using different coping skills and techniques, potentially combined with medication. Read on to learn more about social anxiety disorder medication.
Several classes of FDA-approved and off-label medications have been found effective for treating social anxiety, including:
“Certain medications have FDA approval for certain diagnoses. Psychiatrists have to combine different medications for a particular individual to clear up anxiety symptoms. For various anxiety disorders, FDA has approved medications Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Effexor, and Buspar are a few options.”
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant commonly prescribed as a social anxiety disorder medication. SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, effectively regulating mood.
Popular SSRIs that have been approved for use by the FDA to treat severe social anxiety are sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR).
Some known side effects of SSRIs include:
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another type of medication for social anxiety. SNRIs increase serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain, helping improve mood stability and decrease anxiety.
The FDA has approved SNRI venlafaxine (Effexor XR) for social anxiety treatment.
Some known side effects of SNRIs include:
Beta-blockers are oftentimes used as meds for social anxiety because they can help reduce physical symptoms, like sweating and trembling, by blocking the effects of adrenaline.
Though it’s not effective in treating all common phobias, propranolol can be prescribed off-label for social anxiety.
Common potential side effects of beta-blockers can include:
Benzodiazepines are another off-label, fast-acting medication that can help relieve anxiety symptoms quickly. It’s important to note that they can be habit-forming though, so they’re usually only prescribed for short-term use.
Clonazepam is the most widely studied “benzo” for social anxiety.
Side effects of benzodiazepines to be aware of, including:
Buspirone is a non-addictive medication that can help reduce anxiety without causing drowsiness or sedation. Although research has mixed findings regarding the efficacy of buspirone when used off-label for social anxiety, some studies found it can be effective for some people.
Some commonly known side effects of buspirone include:
“Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Not all the anxieties are the same. The art and science of medicine is to resolve the symptoms. Sometimes a combination of medications is needed to clear all the anxiety symptoms.”
Weighing the pros and cons of using meds for social anxiety is an important consideration. The National Institute of Mental Health states that medication can be an effective part of a treatment plan for social anxiety disorder, especially when medication is combined with therapy and other strategies like mindfulness and deep breathing techniques.
Like any treatment plan, you should consult your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your condition and symptoms.
Don’t let social anxiety stop you from living your life — a combination of medication and therapy for social anxiety can help manage symptoms and enhance your overall well-being.
“Extensive research and clinical work have proven that medicine and therapy are the best treatment recommendations for anxiety disorders, especially social anxiety. Working with your therapist, you will work on psychological symptoms, learning cognitive skills, behavior modification, and adapting to the stressful, challenging, anxiety-provoking situations while medication works to address the physiological symptoms of anxiety disorders.”
Online therapy provides a convenient and accessible way to get treatment for symptoms of social anxiety.
When used together, medication and therapy can lead to more significant improvements than using either treatment alone.
If you’re looking for the best medication for social anxiety, help is available. You can take these steps to determine if medication is the most effective treatment option for you:
When you connect with a Talkspace therapist, you’ll work together to develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and goals in managing social anxiety disorder. Remember that treatment plans with the most effective outcome generally include a combination of medications for social anxiety plus therapy. Get started with Talkspace today to learn to overcome your social anxiety.
Mitsui N, Fujii Y, Asakura S, et al. Neuropsychopharmacology Reports. 2022;42(4):398-409. doi:10.1002/npr2.12275. Accessed June 1, 2023.
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National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed June 1, 2023.
Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD, DFAPA, has over 20 years of clinical experience specializing in mood disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, and ADHD. Dr. Munir believes in “back to basics” the therapeutic alliance between the physician and patients. The hallmark of this alliance is the emphatic process whereby the patient is not only enabled, but educated and encouraged, to take an active role in their psychiatric care and wellbeing.